The National Republican Congressional Committee is offering tutorials to staffers of men up for election next year on how not to offend women. Politico reports the sessions are meant specifically to assist Republican men in how to speak on the campaign trail when they are up against Democratic women.
The classes are surely a response to a gender voting gap that favors Democrats, one that has been bolstered in recent years as male candidates use certain wording and language that offends female constituents.
During the last election cycle, several male Republican candidates lost popular support after making flippant remarks about women. Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO), for example, stirred up controversy by suggesting that victims of “legitimate rape” can’t get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” That comment was followed up just weeks later by another Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from god.”
Presidential candidate Herman Cain (R) also asserted that “many men know more about” policy “than the general public,” while Republican nominee Mitt Romney assured voters that he had “binders full of women” he considered hiring for his administration as Governor of Massachusetts.
A GOP aide told Politico that Republicans have had “multiple sessions” ahead of the 2014 elections to try to teach candidates and their staff “messaging against women opponents.”
While the content of the meetings is not known, NRCC chairman Greg Walden told Politico, “You need to be very careful in how you approach any group and what you say… That’s just Politics 101.” It is the second such opportunity for Republicans to learn how to be less offensive toward women; earlier this year, anti-choice groups offered classes to try to teach Republicans how to talk about rape.
But at its heart, policy, not messaging, is what’s preventing more widespread support for Republicans from women. The party has ignored the needs of female constituents in several ways: Republicans have worked to roll back the contraception mandate in Obamacare that allows women to get birth control without a co-pay, they have opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act that seeks to reduce the pay gap between men and women, they have refused to expand Medicaid — a program with an out-sized effect on women — under Obamacare, and, during the shutdown, they let nutrition programs for low-income women and children lapse, and they delayed the passage of the Violence Against Women Act because it included protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence.
House Speaker John Boehner offered some of his reasoning for why the training is taking place to reporters on Thursday. “Some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be,” he said.